If I'm being honest, my first two years of high school was a trainwreck and harder than it should have been- not due to academics but due to my attitude and confidence. As the person I used to be, I would have been surprised if I even thought about college, let alone get into my state school. My days in school were used as full-day napping sessions, homework was always quickly scribbled 5 minutes before class from the kid sitting next to me, and I had no hope or joy. The people I chose to surround myself with were not any better and only promoted my "I-don't-care-about-anything-whatever" attitude.
However, it all started to change after seeing my grandparents from China, in which their countless stories of hard work and perseverance resonated with me. Towards the end of sophomore year, I found a new group of friends from the track team. My old friends all either transferred or dropped out of school, and I was not trying to ride on that bandwagon. I started to stay awake in class and managed to do my OWN homework the night before. I even decided to enroll in an ALL AP schedule junior year.
I was taking classes like AP Calculus BC, AP Biology, AP Physics C, and it was a huge leap from my honors and regular classes during sophomore year. I started to study and make study sheets for all of my classes. I made efforts to see teachers at lunch for help. I thought about my family and used that towards my drive to succeed. I knew I had a big role in both sides of my family and that I needed to do well to help with financials. I was now finally aiming to go to college and if I am lucky enough, my best financial option and state school, University of Maryland- College Park.
Junior year finally rolled along and I was constantly swamped with studying and running for the school's varsity cross country team. Throughout the journey so far, my counselor noticed my efforts and improvement. One afternoon, he called me down to his office. That was when he introduced me to Questbridge. For juniors, there was the QuestBridge College Prep Scholars program. I was intrigued by the rewards and benefits of becoming a Questbridge College Prep Scholar and when my counselor advised me to apply, I thought about how it could potentially provide me with scholarship opportunities. Often, when making decisions regarding my future, I feel restricted., Paying for a college prep program would be a significant financial burden. Hoping to relieve my parents' financial stress, I applied.
One evening after practice, I received an email to check my application status. Immediately, I logged onto the portal, and as I saw the bolded word, "Congratulations," my heart bounded. As I read further, the letter said that I had been selected as a 2017 College Prep Scholar! Over 12,000 high school juniors applied, and I was one of the 3,736 students chosen to be a part of this program. I was left quite shocked; I had never thought that I would be selected for such a rewarding program. To be accepted as one of the qualifying students was gratifying enough on its own, but I was also invited to the National College Admissions Conference at Yale University and received telementoring from a student at Amherst College. Qualifying for the program would prepare me for the QuestBridge College Match Program for seniors to acquire full-ride scholarships to one of the 36 college partners.
My dad was elated with this news. In fact, he packed up a suitcase and suggested to drive from Maryland up to Yale, at midnight to attend the conference at 7 AM. The joy and sacrifice that my dad made for me to succeed and the help from Questbridge ignited a new fire. I was no longer aiming for a state school. I wanted to attend a top 30 school in the nation. I wanted to start fresh somewhere out of Maryland. I wanted to relieve the financial burden for my family. I wanted to be proud of my demographics as a low income, minority, and first-generation student. My summer leading up to senior year was spent running hundreds of miles, studying for the ACT AND the SAT, working on Questbridge's application, and writing college essays.
Senior year finally rolled around, I got my highest scores on the SAT and ACT, and submitted my applications for my Questbridge schools. I was still enrolled in an all AP schedule and running so at times, it was difficult and hard to handle. October 19th came along and I was struck with sadness as I read that I was not a finalist for Questbridge. I'll admit, I was dejected and my grown confidence took a hit as well.
When I told my counselor the news, he responded with this: "As one door closes, another will open." This quote not only resonated with me but it drove me out of this small pit in the road. No longer sulking, I resumed my college applications and applied to the rest of my schools. From there, it was all waiting and fingers crossing. I had a fair share of closed doors but the doors that opened only led me to greater things, Emory, University of Michigan, Lehigh, I even got into my longtime dream, University of Maryland College Park. When people say "things will work out in the end," trust that and the process.
I STRONGLY encourage first-generation and low-income students to apply to colleges through Questbridge. Not only will you be able to apply to many prestigious schools (at once!!) without having to worry about Early Decisions or Single Early Action rules or application fees, you will be in a community of a thousand other world-changing students, some of whom I still talk to all the time even though we are so far from one another. The community is strong and fueled by everyone's desire to succeed and make a difference. Doesn't it all seem too good to be true? Yes but believe it!! Becoming a finalist for Questbridge presents an amazing opportunity to attend one of the nation's best colleges on a full ride scholarship. Although I was not a finalist, I still managed to get into a great school like Emory with low financial burdens for my family and fully support Questbridge. In fact, I am hopeful Questbridge can relieve the financial stress for many families, and strive to attend one of the nation's best colleges, without a limit.
I am attending a top 30 school in the nation, #21 in fact. I am starting fresh somewhere out of Maryland- Georgia. I am relieving the financial burden for my family. I am proud of my demographics as a low income, minority, and first-generation student.